Joy

As we’ve been celebrating advent this month, we’ve been using Romans 5 as our base passage as it discusses all four themes of advent. So far we have looked at hope and peace. This week we will examine how Christ’s coming brings joy into our life.

Romans 5:1-2

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Our joy is not centered on anything that is rooted in this world. We know that even the best things in life will fail us at times. Cars break down, our bodies get sick, and even our closest friends and family members disappoint us. When our joy is based on these things, we will not always be joyful.

For many people, Christmas is a time of joy because of receiving gifts, going to Christmas parties, and seeing family. But that joy quickly fades away when Christmas bills come due, office party hangovers arrive the next day, or people remember why they only voluntarily see family once a year.

A Christian’s joy is rooted in the hope of the glory of God however. As we discussed two weeks ago, this hope is firm. It is not simply a strong desire, it is certain. It will not fade away or become something different than what we expected it to be. It will not disappoint us, or leave us with unwanted consequences after the fact.

Hope, peace, and joy are closely related throughout the Bible. In Romans 15:13 Paul gives his readers this blessing. 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In this passage, everything is cyclical. The God of hope fills us with joy and peace in order that we may overflow with hope.

Joy can be found in difficult circumstances as well. In Hebrews 10:34 the author writes, You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Likewise, in James 1:2 James writes, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

How does, this work and why does it work? In and of itself, we do not rejoice in times of difficulty. We do not enjoy being persecuted. We don’t like enduring hardship because it means that something has just made our life more difficult and less pleasant. If this life were all there were, every minor setback to achieving our goals would be frustrating painful. Every dollar that is spent on something that was wrongfully taken from us because of theft, accident, accounting error, or inefficiency is a dollar that we can never get back. Every moment that we spend in traffic or a pointless meeting or waiting in line because someone ahead can’t read a sign and thought an item was $4.99 when it was really $14.99 is a moment that we’ll never get back.

We have a number of options when life doesn’t go our way. We can choose to become upset over every little moment that doesn’t go our way. We can get mad because things are out of our control. We can ball up our emotions inside of us, either giving us ulcers or bursting out an wrong moments. We can stoically ignore things and state that this is life and move on. We can open another beer, go shopping, or do anything else we can to escape the situation that we face.

Or finally we can have joy in the midst of even the most difficult of circumstances because God is in control. God won’t give us more than we can handle – as long as we let God have control of the situation. If we insist on having control of the moment we will most likely be overwhelmed even if it’s a relatively small problem.

We can have joy in any circumstance because we know that everything in life is temporary. We have a hope that is outside of this life. We know that even if things do no improve in this life, that we have an eternity in heaven awaiting us.

We also know that this is the pattern of life. Difficulties in life build character. The biblical model is that suffering proceeds glory. Both Joseph and Daniel were slaves before rising to ranks of prime minister in Egypt and Babylon. The Bible is full of stories of women who were unable to have children before God blessed them with a child – Sarah with Isaac, Rachel with Joseph, Hannah with Samuel, Elizabeth with John the Baptist.

But the greatest example of suffering preceding glory is that of Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Yes, Jesus endured the cross before He could be glorified and sit down at the right hand of God. But before this even, He had to come to earth, to lower Himself to become flesh.

Philippians 2:5-11
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

We must all endure hardship in life. It is a way of life. We can rejoice even in our sufferings because we know that God is with us. We can rejoice in our sufferings because we have great hope in our future. And we can have joy in the midst of the worst things because Jesus endured even worse for us. He knew that suffering preceded glory. Difficulty came before joy.      

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